Wednesday, October 24, 2007

So why DO people stay in TEFL?

Now that I’ve put forth my theory that most career EFL teachers (particularly the men) are hiding out from the law or their friends and family, let’s talk about the other reasons someone may choose to stay in the TEFL thing for the long term.

As posited earlier: laziness. In Madrid, most English teachers spend a good 3-5 hours (or more) on the Metro, buses, and Cercanias. At times, you have to travel more than an hour to get to a class that lasts only an hour itself. Then it’s back on the Metro for another one-hour commute to the next class. It’s awful. But some people don’t care. They look at it as five hours per day of listening to their iPod or reading or napping, with little bits of meaningless class thrown in between Metro sessions.

Laziness #2. Some career English language profs are just apathetic about looking for another job. They get into the rhythm of teaching, they live for the thrill of last-minute cancellations that suddenly leave them open for lunch (if only they had the money to pay for a proper lunch), and they’re just not that excited about spending 8 hours a day in an office.

No alternatives. Some people try to use teaching as a springboard to another job or just as an easy cash-generator while looking for other work. The problem is, if you don’t get a “real job” pretty soon after starting your EFL career, you will find yourself very quickly out of the job market and completely unmarketable. I’ve met many intelligent, hard-working teachers who came from the “real world” and planned to make a go of it in Spain. However, after one or two years of teaching English, they soon learned that it’s hard to shake the dreaded label of “TEFL teacher.” Once a TEFL teacher, always a TEFL teacher, it seems. It’s very hard to gain respect in the corporate world once you are labeled as such.

LUCK. Yes, there are a lucky few who fall into easy director of studies jobs and spend their days bossing around teachers in between countless trips to the neighboring café. They get paid significantly more than the poor people they order to commute 1 ½ hours at 6:30 a.m. to give a one-hour lesson, and they love it. They get paid summer holidays, but they don’t understand why their lowly underlings are pissed off about having to slave away in summer camps to squeak by until the academic year starts again in October. And they will never, NEVER leave their position – so if you want any chance of getting one of these jobs, my advice is to find an academy with a DOS who’s at least 70 years old.

5 comments:

MadridTeacher.com said...

I'm a 45 year-old English teacher and I work 7 days a week so I can't say I'm lazy and I consider teaching a real job, albeit with problems, just like any job. By the way, it can be well-paid if you can get past the cynical defeatism (hint, hint). I've seen several DOS jobs advertised over the past year so I don't agree with you about their not being an available.

MadridTeacher.com said...

Oh, yea. I almost forgot. I know an ex-executive working as an English teacher getting paid a god-awful amount of money per hour for business English classes. He must be making over 4,000 euros and he's got nowhere near the levels of stress he had before.

eslhell said...

That's great for him. What about the hundreds of other English teachers in Madrid who make 15 euros or less per hour?

MadridTeacher.com said...

I used to be one of those teachers as well. It served its purpose at the time. With the experience I got at the time I was able to move on to bigger and better things. The way up is through. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of work to get "respect" in this business. By "respect," I also mean "pay." The average salary is 18,000 in Spain, though I think most normal people really make closer to 12,000-14,000. And most of them are working at jobs I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. When I see the cards most people have been dealt around here, I can't complain. You want a better deal? Do something about it.

MadridTeacher.com said...

Oh, and while I'm at it, I should add that I've met plenty of ex-English-teachers working in companies over the years. I myself have never been tempted to do so because I like teaching despite the obvious problems and I think I make more money at it than all those people. To mention a few: secretaries or personal assistants, editors, translators (yes, on staff not subcontracted), etc. The truth is that people don't go around boasting about having been an English teacher once or vice versa.